1. Be honest about your feelings
It’s important to be honest and communicate your feelings to others. Keeping your feelings to yourself leads to miscommunication, unmet needs, and unhealthy relationships. Ignored or bottled up feelings often continue to build and eventually explode out in a destructive and unhelpful way. Making it a habit to be honest about your feelings is important if you want to effectively communicate with others.
2. Take responsibility for your feelings
While certain people and situations can definitely influence our feelings, we have to remember that our feelings are ultimately our responsibility. We don’t always choose how we feel, but we do have a choice in how we respond to those feelings, and whether we do so in a constructive or destructive way. Feelings aren’t a “permission pass” to lash out or hurt others. When you refuse to take responsibility for your feelings, they can quickly become an excuse for bad decision-making.
3. Communicate what you need without judgment
When we communicate our feelings, we are often expressing a need that we wish to be fulfilled. When a wife says to her husband, “You spend too much time at work” what she really wants is for her husband to spend more time with her and the kids. By communicating this as a personal need, but without blaming her husband for not fulfilling this need, she can better express her message. For example, she could say, “I know you’re very busy with work, but I’m upset because I wish you would spend more time with the kids.” This expresses her feelings and needs, while not making judgmental statements like “You’re such a bad father!”
4. Make a specific request
When we make a request of others, it’s best we make it specific. When a boyfriend or girlfriend says, “I need more freedom in the relationship” this is a vague request that a person likely won’t know how to fulfill. What does the person exactly mean by “freedom?” Instead, make your request something concrete like, “I’d like to spend some weekend nights at the bar with just the girls.” By communicating your needs in a more specific way, it clears up any room for confusion and allows the other person to respond to the request more accurately.
5. Keep in mind their feelings and needs too
Whenever you communicate your feelings, it’s important to remember that the other person has their own set of feelings and they may not always match up with yours. Actively listening to other people’s needs is just as important as speaking your own needs. And only when both sides have their needs expressed and understood can you begin to find common ground and be able to resolve conflicts and disagreements. If you believe that your feelings are always more important than someone else’s, it’s going to be very difficult to find peaceful solutions.
6. Respect people when they tell you “No”
The final stage of communicating your feelings is to make a request of the other person. But because this is a request and not a demand, you have to be willing to hear the answer “No” from time to time. And when someone tells you “No” it’s going to hurt, but you can’t make a big deal about it by overreacting or lashing out or throwing insults at the other person for not complying. Usually when we overreact to a “No,” it’s because we weren’t making a request – we were making a demand – which isn’t a healthy approach to communicating our feelings.